From the President


Winter 2002 (Vol. III, No. 4) Table of Contents

More Questions than Answers

By: Julie Fauble
President, IOBA
URL: http://www.centurybooks.com

I have more questions than answers these days. What will happen in this rapidly changing online used book market? How do I respond to these changes? What do I want my business to look like? What can I do to make my business better? So many questions and so many different answers, as many answers as there are booksellers.

I’m not going to give you any answers here. Instead, I want to talk about why we should keep asking the questions.

First and foremost, books are important. Books change the world. The history of ideas, the history of human progress, is the history of books.

In the present world of multi-media and digital wonders, the humble book is more vital than ever. Other media may be flashier or appeal more to our senses and need for stimuli, but it is a book that will slow us down long enough to think. It is a book that will connect to our higher mind, not just our emotions.

The printed word is essential as an archive, a repository. An e-book can be rewritten and leave no trace of its original. Web pages come and go with the click of a mouse. With a few more clicks, a photo can be rearranged. Put Hollywood technology to work, and history on film can be changed completely. All the goals of an Orwellian Ministry of Truth can be accomplished in the digital world.

Books do not so easily fall prey to this malleable reality. One cannot alter a book without leaving evidence behind, and if there is evidence of something removed, then there is someone somewhere who will seek out the original, seek out what the censors attempt to hide.

Books are essential to the soul. In a world of noisy, intrusive mass media, the soul needs the oneness, the intimacy, the quiet of a book. The human mind wasn’t created for the non-stop bombardment of modern living, the omnipresent whine of television and radio, the crush of humanity in the daily grind. The mind needs a break from all this, and for many, the quiet time spent reading a book is the only break they have. The book is their means of renewal.

When business is frustrating, when I wonder why I even bother, I bring myself back to this core: Books are important, and those of us who deal in them perform an important service to the world.

Some will say that’s idealistic nonsense, that one only need to look at the corporate entities coming in to see it’s just a business like any other. Don’t believe them. Books cannot be exchanged for widgets any more than a doctor could be exchanged for a plumber. The corporatization of the medical world doesn’t alter the doctors’ sacred charge to heal the body. No more should the changes in the book world alter our sacred charge to feed the mind and keep the histories.

Whether we are a seller, collector or reader and whether we deal in paperback romances or scholarly tomes, we all play a sacred role in the world of ideas. Remember that, and honor it.

With all the best for a peaceful and joyous holiday season,

Julie

The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

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